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Paul Andersen: Fair Game

Paul Andersen
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

A cynic remarked that the Occupy Wall Street movement only wants the 99 percent to become the 1 percent. If that were so, they would be occupying the White House with pitchforks and flaming torches instead of city parks with tents and placards.

The occupiers’ revolution is nuanced by their quest not to destroy the corporate-political infrastructure but to temper the greed and selfishness of Wall Street by spreading egalitarian virtues through peaceful cultural evolution.

Never mind that capitalism is antithetical to the idea or that human nature seems hardwired for scarcity and entitlement. And while spreading the wealth is a great idea, the 99 percent also should realize that they too must pony up for the Third World’s share, not just the 1 percent. They might feel impoverished, but they’re still richer than most.



I’m all for the viral spread of fairness, but I wonder if the disenfranchised 99 percent is compromising its message through social media. Marshall McLuhan warned about this in 1967 – “The medium is the message.”

Social media are incredibly popular and supposedly breathing new life into civic and political participation. Perhaps one day they will even stitch together a deep human connection instead of spamming the world with minutiae.



To my thinking, a different kind of revolution is needed before social networks rise above the superfluities of chat to take on real significance.

Rather than Occupy Wall Street, dissenters first ought to Occupy Ourselves. Inner resources should be developed before social networking can propel us into the new realms of altruism the 99 percent stridently endorses.

Social networks seem more concerned about commercial quantity than social quality. My 19-year-old son tells me there’s an inverse proportion in the number of “friends” one has on Facebook to the number of living, breathing, soulful friends one has in real life.

In order to Occupy Ourselves, we need to escape the static interference of the commercial culture promoted by social networks. We need to turn off the media and quiet the mind. This might seem like a passive approach until you try it and discover how elusive it is – and yet how essential if we’re ever going to occupy anything deeper than a gossip blog.

The quiet mind has the frequency to tap into something ancient and deep, a storehouse of intuitive preset data accessible only in quiet, introspective moments, usually when we’re wrestling with moral and ethical dilemmas. Blasted by a deafening volume of media harangues, it is a wonder that we can find any calm at all, let alone sleep at night.

A lot of us don’t sleep at night, disturbed by an electronic barrage that we plug into willingly only to find that it blocks the mind from deeper purposes. Sleep aids and relaxants are pandemic because the mind is under constant assault by legions of insatiable commercial entrepreneurs who commandeer the social networks for profit.

These social media scions maintain that one cannot live a meaningful life without ear buds, iPhones and constant access to an incessant stream of babble radiating through a firestorm of electromagnetic signals.

How are we supposed to address the global challenges of our times without moral clarity in thought and purpose? How is modern man supposed to advance with a noisy, distracted mind?

A lot of the media muddle is designed to keep us from acting or thinking because a complacent population is far easier to commercialize than a discerning one. That’s why it’s antithetical for counterculture movements to declare independence through the very media that seek to enslave them.

The risk of distraction from global challenges is the collapse of systems, like the economic collapse that incited occupiers in the first place. The real collapse occurred years earlier in the moral failings of the culture, which made collapse profitable for the few who recklessly engineered it.

The 99 percent ends up taking on most of the pain and suffering, and yet these are the same customers who indiscriminately support social media and the corporations that produce the goods and services that finance them. By its complicity, the 99 percent ends up endorsing the economic system that makes the 1 percent rich enough to ignore egalitarian virtues.

Marshall McLuhan had it right 45 years ago.


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